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My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier
A protester camps out at St. Paul's Cathedral last month in London. Tony Perkins says Jesus had a different view of "occupy."
December 6th, 2011
12:10 PM ET

My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier

Editor's note: Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council in Washington.

By Tony Perkins, Special to CNN

(CNN) - One of the last instructions Jesus gave his disciples was "Occupy till I come."

As Jesus was about to enter Jerusalem for the last time, just before his crucifixion, he was keenly aware that his disciples greatly desired and even anticipated that the kingdom of God was going to be established immediately on the earth.

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As a way to break the news that it wasn't going to happen in the manner and with the timing they expected, Jesus pulled them aside and gave them instructions by way of a parable.

The primary purpose of the parable, which appears in the Gospel of Luke, was to make clear to his disciples that the kingdom of God would not be physically established on the earth for some time and that, until then, they were being entrusted with certain responsibilities.

Jesus, depicted as a ruler in the story, would have to leave for a while as he traveled to a faraway place to receive authority to reign over the kingdom. In his absence, the disciples - depicted as servants - were to "occupy" until he returned.

Here's the direct quote from Luke: "He called his ten servants, and gave to them ten minas, one mina each (a mina today would be worth around $225), and he then told them to 'Occupy till I come.' " (Luke 19:13, King James Version)

But just what does Jesus' order to occupy mean? Does it mean take over and trash public property, as the Occupy movement has? Does it mean engage in antisocial behavior while denouncing a political and economic system that grants one the right and luxury to choose to be unproductive?

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No, the Greek term behind the old English translation literally means "be occupied with business." As with all parables, Jesus uses a common activity such as fishing or farming to provide a word picture with a deeper spiritual meaning.

From a spiritual perspective, the mina in this parable represents the opportunity of life; each of us is given the same opportunity to build our lives, and each of us shares the same responsibility to invest our lives for the purpose of bringing a return and leaving a legacy. Jesus gave equal responsibility and opportunity to each of his 10 servants.

The fact that Jesus chose the free market system as the basis for this parable should not be overlooked. When the nobleman returns, after being established as king - a stand-in for Jesus - he calls all his servants together to see what they had accomplished in his absence.

The first servant reports a nice profit: 10 minas. While the story lacks specifics on whether he invested the money in a herd of sheep or a hedge fund, we do know that he made his gain by engaging in business transactions of some sort. He used a free market system to bring a tenfold return on investment. No doubt such a return took a lot of diligent, dedicated effort.

The newly established king praises the servant and gives him a reward that's an even greater return on his efforts, "because you have been faithful in very little I will give you authority over ten cities."

Likewise the second servant in the story, who had turned his one mina into five, is praised and rewarded with greater responsibilities: He is given five cities.

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The third servant in the story had apparently either slept through his economics course or was just indifferent to the work delegated to him.

He had essentially kept the capital entrusted to him under his mattress for safekeeping.

When called to give an account of what he had accomplished, the man immediately attempts to shift the focus off his failure with excuses of how unfair the boss was because he was always trying to get more than he deserved for his money.

The employee review is immediate and intense: "Out of your own mouth will I judge you, you wicked servant." The king's disappointment and frustration are nearly palpable. "Why didn't you at least put the money in the bank and draw interest?" the king inquires.

While such language might prompt an HR complaint today, its meaning was quite clear to the disciples. There are no excuses for doing nothing.

Parables generally have a twist near the end, a final jolt to drive the point home. This one is no exception. The ruler orders that the capital, or opportunity, given to the lazy servant be taken from him and given to the most productive servant. "To everyone who has, more shall be given," the Bible reads, "but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away."

Jesus rejected collectivism and the mentality that has occupied America for the last few decades: that everyone gets a trophy - equal outcomes for inequitable performance. There are winners and yes, there are losers. And wins and losses are determined by the diligence and determination of the individual.

Some would argue that such an approach encourages abuses, the likes of which we have seen on Wall Street. While some egregious abuses have taken place, they are not inevitable or intrinsic to free enterprise.

The parable of the king and the servants endorses the principles of business and the free market when properly employed.

Remember, these servants were not working for themselves, but under the constraints of their lord and for his benefit. Likewise our free market system works when bridled by morality. Not arbitrary morality that changes with political parties, but transcendent moral principles.

Yes, we are to "occupy," not by railing against a free market system that rewards diligence, even though it is occasionally abused. Rather we are to occupy by  using that system ethically as a means to advance the interests of the one we serve.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Perkins.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Economy • Jesus • Opinion

soundoff (3,372 Responses)
  1. Cleo

    Author is a humbug. He's forgotten that his business is humankind. Nothing more than a modern day Scrooge.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  2. tnmtl

    This is so dumb!!!! Sorry Jesus was closer to an occupier than some greedy old wall street executive!!! He was closer to communist than a free marketeer! Why does CNN publish this rubish???

    December 6, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Che

      You tell me!
      Where's Bernard Shaw when you need some intellectual intelligence at CNN?
      Those days are all gone.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • nwatcher

      So, in other words you know this Jesus of whom you speak? I assume you spend a lot of time investigating such things or you would not dare spew such extreme thoughts on such a conservative website as CNN... wow, thank you all for enlightening me with your well thought out reasoning and arguments. I feel so much better now..

      – hey Billy Graham is out of the hospital. What do you think about him. Go ahead, take a shot...you know you want to...

      December 6, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  3. DONNASMITH

    I was waiting for him to say the world was ending...everything else was dribble>

    December 6, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  4. Encart A. Websthesaurs

    This article perfectly defines what the word "BABBLE" is.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Hence

      Tony Perkins, the author is a Master BABBLER!

      December 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  5. lilred

    The writer has a lot of arrogance to presume he knows what Jesus thought about politics.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • David, CA

      Of course- he's the talking head for a hate group.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  6. Bobby

    Maybe he should read Matt:21:12.. Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers/bankers.. Religion has no business promoting economics..

    December 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  7. KINDRA CONNELL

    HOW DARE YOU TAKE THE BIBLE OUT OF CONTEXT. YOU DO NOT KNOW JESUS. HE WAS SENT BY JEHOVAH GOD HIS HEAVENLY FATHER TO MINISTER TO THE PEOPLE ABOUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND TO GIVE A RANSOM SO THAT MEN COULD HAVE FORGIVENESS OF SIN. HE NEVER MADE BUSINESS DEALING NOR DID HE GIVE HIS DICIPLES MONEY OR MAKE WORDLY BUSINESS DEALINGS. 2 TIMIOTHY 3:1-7 GIVES THE PROPHECYS OF THE LAST DAYS AND THESE PROPHISES ARE BEING FULFILLED. YOU MISLEAD PEOPLE. JESUS DESPISES MEN LIKE YOU.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Che

      I like that!
      Republikan Dummy, aka Tony Perkins has proven to be Biblically backward and misogynistic lying pig. The question is; why is that White folks always votes these uneducated, exam cheating, idiotic psychopaths into office? They're brain dead and intellectually deficient by birth. Only in America!

      December 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  8. Hal Summers

    Jesus was hardly a free marketer: he gave up His heavenly riches to live the life of a servant. On earth, he had "no place to lay His head". He was hardly out to profit for Himself. I doubt you can reall say you follow Him without following His example. That's what His Apostles did. In The Book of Acts, it is written: "For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any who had need". Mr. Perkins can surely cite verses, as could Satan himself, to back up his philosophy but the overall message of the Bible is to love your neighbor as yourself. That's awfully hard to do if you're hoarding billions of dollars while your neighbors starve. There are plenty of Biblical warnings about storing up earthly treasures. I think Mr.Perkins needs to quit skipping over the Biblical passages that don't line up to his preconceived notions.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  9. God Where Art Thou. Part VII

    Nice quote but there is almost no I say no scientific evidence of anything that took place in the life of Jesus except that he gave one sermon. The Sermon on the Mount. Everything else is myth and conjecture and therefore fiction since none of the original writings exist. The only old writings are from decades after he died. Then those writings were just hand me down stories and we have no idea who actually said or did anything. Princeton University has a Theological Seminary and they say the entire history is shot with holes in the logic and it therefore is not historic just myth.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • John

      Word.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  10. Rich

    Jesus was gay .....he told me so just after he spoke to Cain and Perry...

    December 6, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Che

      I think what you truly wish to say is that this Republikan Dummy, aka Tony Perkins is a "Closet Gay". Just look at that PUNK.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • David, CA

      Che- I think you just made self respecting gays the world over vomit at the thought.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Che

      @David, CA, he needs to come out and be acknowledged than cowardly hiding behind his mama's stinky underwear, bashing and picking on Gays. Does self-appointed Bishop Long ring a bell?
      Mr. Lemon of CNN came out and it was alright with us. You reading me wrong, David!

      December 6, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  11. GG

    What a STUPID article! If Jesus was a free marketer, why did he duplicate and distribute 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish to feed hundreds for free. Wouldn't a free marketer have instead sold them for the most amount? Tony Perkins is just another hypocrite who picks and chooses words from the Bible to spin in his own interest!

    December 6, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Che

      Thank you. God bless you for being witness.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  12. Rich

    come out Perkins come out!We don't care...be yourself.jesus will understand

    December 6, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  13. Sweep

    I think Jesus was a House protector, Hence the turning over the tables and driving people out of the temple. He went face stomping mode on people.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  14. Rick

    I think he may be confusing him with Supply-Side Jesus

    December 6, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  15. Che

    Republikan Dummy, aka Tony Perkins, Special to CNN. The last time we checked; Jesus Christ "Occupied" a church in the Bible with a horse WHIP.
    Trailer park pothead, Tony Perkins get off your stinky texan leather boots shoe wax. Whew, you're a real troll. Some idiot.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  16. Karl

    Perkins is reprehensible the way he turns Jesus into a profit motive capitalist. Jesus in fact did represent the Occupy Wall Street folks much more than the corporate greed they protest against. Perkins is a heretic of the first order. God have mercy on him.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Che

      This Sunday Christian troll didn't read his Trailer park Bible and unaware that in fact; Jesus Christ did "Occupy" a Church in the Bible with a horse WHIP and kicked out some stinky ASSESS, emptied the whole Temple to serve the needs of the Lord, the poor and his people. This imbecilic republikan dummy, aka Tony Perkins like all republikans didn't read that from the Scriptures.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  17. Rich

    Mr Perkins you look like a sweet heart........lol

    December 6, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Che

      You wanna PUNK his pig ASS for real like a doggie?

      December 6, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  18. someoneelse

    What about Santa?

    December 6, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  19. blind faith

    Ah, and another in-the-closet religious nut's spin.

    Do you think baby jesus would approve of your biased stretches of events: "Does it mean take over and trash public property, as the Occupy movement has? (really, all without exception?) Does it mean engage in antisocial behavior while denouncing a political and economic system that grants one the right and luxury to choose to be unproductive? (sounds like the exact behavior of a religious nutjob)"

    The author should really hope that the atheists are correct and there is no heaven or hell because if there is, this guy's ignorant views will rapidly place him among those to arrive in flames.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  20. Cristobal Bagnandez

    This might be the dumbest thing I've ever read.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • I concur..

      Definitely, you're not alone with that thought.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.